Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Still Dreaming of Jerusalem

Shlomi Gil

When the Nazi sneered that he’d be dead before ever seeing Jerusalem, Binyamin Werzberger knew that one day against all odds, he would yet stand next to those holy stones of the Kosel. And for the past two decades he’s been in charge of cleaning the world’s most precious wall, outliving his tormenter’s curse and feeling more blessed than ever.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If you see an elderly man in a dapper suit looking like the host of the Kosel next time you visit, go up to him and shake his hand. He isn’t looking for money or even kavod; he’s the self-appointed service person of the Western Wall, there to help out any worshipper who needs assistance. Because for Binyamin Werzberger, 89, it’s about a vow he made to his Nazi oppressor more than 70 years ago. Werzberger was already retired when he walked over to the offices of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Jerusalem organization responsible for the maintenance of the Kosel area, offering his services. They were a bit skeptical of this retiree, but in the end offered him what was available — to clean the stones of the Kosel plaza every day, sweeping away the fallen notes (they are put in a special genizah) and make sure the area would look neat and presentable for the thousands of worshippers that arrive each day. He readily agreed, and for the past 20 years was on the site every morning at 5:30 a.m. (“I never look at my watch when I’m here,” he says.) He couldn’t have been happier, knowing he’d vanquished the memory of that tormentor who sneered as his jackboot came down on young Binyamin’s head: “Still dreaming of Jerusalem, filthy Jew? Maybe your ashes will merit to see your precious Jerusalem through the smoke of your burning corpse!” Now a combination of advanced age and a leg injury have ended the daily Kosel tenure, but although he’s no longer salaried, he still makes it his business to visit the Kosel once a week to welcome both the steadies and first-time visitors who come to the site. Werzberger knows every corner and crevice and is intimately familiar with the ancient underground labyrinth revealed by the Kosel Tunnel excavations, but while those primeval stones have endured through the centuries, the area today is nothing like it was the first time he approached the holy site in 1947 after years of imprisonment and near death — and in defiance of the Nazi’s curse.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"